We’re heading into the last stretch and the final chapter.
Gu Pingsheng thinks about their future. 🙂 And on top of first aid and medicinal and herbal foods, Tong Yan is learning massage and acupoints as well as driving. She’s putting so much pressure on herself.
Final Chapter (1)
Vital signs monitor, intravenous infusion pump, ventilator, syringe pump … The green lights of these various pieces of equipment were flashing. There were doctors and nurses, garbed in isolation gowns, discussing in low tones and checking the numbers on the equipment.
All these had once been very familiar to him.
This was the hospital he and his mother had once worked in, and therefore, his access to and time in the ICU were not being restricted.
He waited until the elderly man was sound asleep before he stepped into the isolation change room outside the ICU and removed his isolation attire.
“The chief physicians of the various departments are all carefully keeping watch on Elder Gu’s sickness. Nephrology even brought over 301 Hospital’s [301 Military Hospital] Dong Changting. He’s considered an authoritative voice and leading professor at the transplant centre.” Beside him, the doctor who had always had quite a good relationship with him, Doctor Liao, was speaking in a quiet voice. “The situation may not be considered a good one, but you were in this profession before and should be able to accept whatever comes.”
When Dong Changting came today, he had arranged ahead of time to have dinner with Gu Pingsheng.
Gu Pingsheng purposely did not show up.
In regards to this person, Gu Pingsheng had probably let go of all resentment toward him after his teenage years. As a young child, when he returned to China with his mother, he had still held some expectations and hope in his heart, and after over and over missing chances to see him, some bitterness had even started to build.
And hidden behind that bitterness were actually very clear and evident feelings of insecurity and inferiority.
To a teenager, the term, “father,” itself, encompassed a power within it that could not be suppressed. Furthermore, that man truly was very outstanding, so outstanding that a sense of inadequacy and low self-esteem from being rejected had been produced in Gu Pingsheng, a mere ordinary Catholic school student at the time.
But after navigating through that age of feeling bewildered and hesitant about the future, the power held by that word had naturally dissipated.
Without answering, he handed the isolation gown to a young nurse. There were traces of dampness on his body from perspiration.
“Why hasn’t your wife come all this time?” Doctor Liao also handed his gown over.
“We haven’t officially gotten married yet, so it’s not very suitable.”
“Back when I was on internship with you, you could be considered the beau of the faculty. I never would have thought you’d be enchanted by a young girl.” Doctor Liao let out a chuckle. “But that little girl really is a great girl. Just look at the divorce rates after SARS. This type of thing is not something that you can just say you’ve accepted it and then it happens. I’ll say, what are you waiting for, not getting married all this time?”
“She hasn’t graduated from university yet.” His tone when he answered was placid as still waters. “After she has successfully graduated, we will marry.”
Doctor Liao gave an “oh” and pressed the switch that controlled the glass door.
When the door slowly opened, he at last finished his musings, and with a faint smile, he patted Gu Pingsheng. “Born in the ’90s?”
This question really did leave Gu Pingsheng taken aback.
After he had walked out of the hospital and sat into a taxi, he thought about that phrase again.
From when he began teaching Tong Yan’s class, he had noticed that this generation of students was very unique. He had not grown up in the country, but when comparing Pingfan’s approach to life with those students’, they truly were quite far apart.
He very distinctly remembered that one time, he had seen a girl, with her hair dyed pink and wearing a sky blue-coloured bow, dashing into the office to beg the teacher for the Foundations to Law course to “cut her some slack,” and he had suddenly had the urge to laugh.
And there were also those pink love letters with heart shape cutouts that he had received when he was teaching Tong Yan.
When Gu Pingfan saw them, she had once sighed over how, in the past, if something like that were to occur, it would at most be an anonymous confession of feelings. The kids nowadays, though, were acting as if they were worried people would not know they had a crush on their teacher …
But after all, they were still just kids.
As he leaned back in the front passenger seat, he remembered those words she had once said: “to have a child who can miss you with me.”
A big kid raising a little kid?
It seemed one was not enough, either. Supposedly, foreign nationals in China had no limitations on their family planning. But Pingfan had also mentioned that if both parents were only-children themselves, the couple would be allowed to have two children.
In that case, including her, there would be three. The responsibility of providing food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities for the three kids would fall on him.
It seemed, this truly was quite a nice idea.
Tong Yan left that sentence on the wall.
Worried that her eyes were too swollen, in the end, she still made a phone call to Grandmother, stating that she might be home a little late. Fortunately, it was winter, and the meat did not need to be placed into the refrigerator straightaway. So, carrying a bag of chicken dripping with blood, she strolled to a KFC near the community compound to take care of dinner for herself.
It was not certain whether it was because of the chicken or because her face was swollen after being hit, but when she was ordering, the server took several extra glances at her.
Standing beside a sink, she soaked a napkin in cold water. Then she selected a table in a corner and took a seat, pressing that wet napkin against her cheek while she gnawed on a spicy chicken wing.
The glass wall in front of her faced the road as well as the main entrance of the community compound that was across the way.
After nibbling down two chicken wings, she happened to notice a taxi stopping in front of the fresh fruits store, and her intuition told her it was him returning home. As predicted, the person who stepped out from that low interior of the vehicle and quickly straightened himself was Gu Pingsheng.
Clamping a wing between her teeth, she pulled out her mobile phone and swiftly used the selfie mode of the camera to look over her own face.
It was completely better. Sure enough, her body was one that withstood attacks.
That person off in the distance was selecting fruit with head lowered, and the fruit storekeeper’s wife was holding something up and chatting with him. Due to his height, he had politely bowed his head somewhat to watch the storekeeper’s wife speak.
Tong Yan sent a text message to him: I got off work late. Oh, very poor me. I’m eating junky fast food right now.
She saw him, on that side of the road, pull out his mobile phone from his pocket and look down at it.
She carried on with chomping on her chicken wings, but her eyes were fixed on him. Although the glass was a little dirty, it did not hinder her from admiring the beauty.
Putting away the change the fruit storekeeper’s wife was handing to him, Gu Pingsheng slipped his wallet and phone back into the pocket of his trousers. He set the fruits he had just bought onto one of the fruit stands for the time being.
Then, he turned around and began to cross the crosswalk that was on the road. Halfway across, he happened to encounter a red light, and he stood amongst the vast throng of people, waiting patiently for the red light to turn green.
Perhaps because she had experienced a very unpleasant situation earlier on, as she watched him strolling over now, he — such a wonderful and fine-looking person — created such a perfect picture. Simply looking at him like this caused her heart to pound.
When he saw her, he did not step inside and instead, stood on the outside of the glass wall, gazing at her with a light furrow in his brows.
Tong Yan wiped her mouth clean with a napkin and silently formed the words to him: “I was wrong. I won’t eat junky fast food anymore.”
She did not know what he was thinking, but anyhow, he did not speak.
Tong Yan lifted up the bag containing the chicken meat, and as if presenting a treasure, she beamed at him. “Braised chicken with chestnuts.”
Gu Pingsheng raised his eyebrows slightly, a smile spreading across his eyes, but still remained unspeaking.
Behind him, a vehicle by chance was heading his way, and its headlights soon streaked by beside him. She still wanted to say more, but all of a sudden, he opened his mouth and concisely spoke three words: “Let’s go home.”
Nodding, she swiftly put away her mobile phone and dashed out of the KFC.
The type of excitement she was feeling was truly like a little child who had forgotten her key, and after waiting and waiting, her parent had finally returned home …
That night, while she was standing beneath the showerhead in the bathroom, she was still wondering when she had become so able to simply let go of things. The incident had occurred only several hours ago, but it felt as if it was another lifetime. It seemed that anything that did not have to do with Gu Pingsheng was something she did not want to concern herself with.
When she stepped out, wrapped in a bath towel, Gu Pingsheng was sitting at the bay window, reading through some material.
That very first time when he had first brought her to look at the apartment, the feature they had both loved the most was the large bay window in the bedroom. With a thick sheepskin rug, a low table, and several throw pillows, it had become a little space for reading and enjoying tea.
Gu Pingsheng was wearing grey, cotton workout pants and sitting barefooted there with his back against the glass of the window. All sorts of documents were scattered beside his feet and on the low table. Because he was working on an Argentinian project, all of that photocopied material was in Spanish.
He was an individual who very much had professional ethics and integrity. Since all the projects he was involved with were business confidential, naturally, the materials that he brought out of the office were preferably all ones that people would not be able to understand even if they saw them. Over this last while, she had seen plenty of them, so though she did not know the meaning of the content, she could still recognize the written language.
As she approached him, he at last raised his head out of all those various documents.
“It’s such an advantage if your first language is English. You can still spare some effort to learn other languages.” Copying him, she crawled barefooted to the window and, with a grin, poked his foot. “Sir, do you need a foot massage?”
She had already been experimenting on him for several days and had even, with printed sheets of instructions in hand, looked very proper and knowledgeable as she memorized hand techniques and acupoints. She now nearly remembered all of them, and her manner was just like that of a master of traditional Chinese medicine.
Gu Pingsheng could not contain a laugh. “It’s Friday night. Let’s rest for a day, okay?”
“I can’t let myself be lax.” In a rather hurt tone, Tong Yan persuaded, “Practice brings genuine knowledge. Didn’t you notice that I’m not holding the acupoint chart anymore? I’m telling you, you should be grateful. The other day, a few of the judges at my courthouse were complaining that nowadays, the foot massage places outside cut corners and use the knuckles of the fingers to give the massage. Less and less are actually conscientious like me and use the pads of the fingers to massage, you know?”
He threw up his white flag in surrender, letting her, this novice who was not even as proficient as an apprentice, practice on him.
“I want to go learn how to drive.” After she had completed all the steps, her fingers were already feeling somewhat sore. She was mimicking him and leaning back against the window when she out of the blue thought of this. “That way, if there’s any urgent matter in the family and we can’t get a taxi, there’s still another person who can drive.”
“There is no need to deliberately learn how to drive. If anything happens, there’s still Pingfan.”
He really was not bothering to be gracious at all …
Tong Yan deeply felt that Gu Pingfan could go crazy with frustration from having this little cousin. “What if Pingfan gets married one day? Or it just so happens that she’s not in Beijing? She can’t always just come whenever you call.”
He finally relented. “You can wait until the weather has warmed up a bit.”
She, however, could not wait to begin. “How about I start this weekend? Take advantage of this time while I’m still on internship and relatively idle.”
Unless Gu Pingsheng re-took his driver’s license examination in China, it was not possible for him to drive anymore. Therefore, she treated this matter as her own assignment and was much more earnest and diligent than anyone else in her driving school. But only when she began to carry out her mission did she discover that China’s driving schools were extremely unreliable. Basically, if she wanted to be able to unruffledlly take a vehicle out onto the road, she still needed to find a secluded place every night to practice with Gu Pingsheng.
The instructor who taught her loved chatting and even asked her what her boyfriend’s occupation was.
“A lawyer.” She smiled, “He’s in the same field as me.”
“That’s great. I’ll recommend some cases to him in the future. People these days love having lawsuits. I have quite a few neighbours who are always looking for a lawyer to fight their lawsuits for them. You know, all those things like real estate, alimony and child support. Serious, people are haggling more and more over petty things.”
“He is not qualified to represent anyone in litigation in court … He’s a solicitor. He provides non-litigation legal counsel.” Tong Yan could not think of many ways to explain. “So, when people invest in a project, he will help people look over the contracts, agreements, legal negotiations, and stuff like that.”
She actually could not say exactly what he did every day.
She just remembered one occasion when she had gone to wait for him to get off work. The secretary of the department had explained to her that he still had a video conference regarding the legal negotiations around a hedge fund investment. When she walked up to the door of Gu Pingsheng’s office, the frosted glass door of the conference room across the way had happened to be pushed open.
Inside that conference room had all been highly experienced solicitors, dressed in suits in the uniform colour of black. His back, perfectly erect, had been toward her, and moreover, his voice had contained a composure and steadiness she had never before heard. “The amendments that have been annotated here are not in line with market convention. We refuse to accept such unjustifiable requests …”
The remainder of his words had been cut off by the slowly closing glass door.
That evening’s negotiations had went very late. It was not until she had completely destroyed in her belly all of the crackers in his office that the meeting finally came to an end. When he returned to his office, he had undid his tie, tossed it onto his desk, and sat down, his entire body radiating fatigue.
It had pained Tong Yan’s heart to see him like so, and sitting close up beside him, she had kneaded his shoulders and arms. Noticing that his mind still seemed to be immersed in his work matters, she had arbitrarily sought out a nonsensical question and interrupted his thoughts. “I’ve never had an English name. What do you think would be a good one?”
He had contemplated on this for a few seconds, then answered with a smile, “Eve.”
“Eve?” Tong Yan mulled over the meaning. “As in ‘evening’?”
“Eve, the biblical character.”
She had been at a loss for words at this. “A name like that isn’t really suitable for people to use to address me …”
“If you stay and continue working in the courts, you probably won’t get an opportunity to use an English name anyway.” Gu Pingsheng had more and more seemed to feel that this name was quite good. “We can just use this name at home.”
Eve. Because of the story of the rib, this had become the most wonderful name.
Turning the steering wheel, Tong Yan continued listening to her driving instructor talk about all sorts of civil disputes, but her mind had already drifted far away.
1 of 1 Prologue
62 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments